Summary: There is an old English Idiom: the elephant in the room. It refers to an obvious truth that everyone ignores. I think all of us have experienced the elephant in the room phenomenon in different ways.
The Bible is full of gray areas. And it is in those areas that we have to rely on our God-given conscience to guide us. And alcohol may be exhibit A. So let me share some principles that will help us navigate this gray area as well as others.
Some of you grew up in families where Christians don’t drink. Some of you grew up in families where Christians do drink. And your background will largely influence how you hear what I’m about to say. Some of you are shocked that I’m even talking about the issue because to you it’s a non-issue. And some of you will be shocked by what the Bible actually has to say about alcohol.
Let me give a little back story first. Alcohol has had an interesting history in the church. For what it’s worth, on their journey to Plymouth Rock, the pilgrims loaded more beer onto the Mayflower than water. Pastor John Calvin, one of the most influential theological thinkers in Christian history, got a salary package that included 250 gallons of wine per year. I just want you to know that our stewardship team didn’t approve that for me. They drew the line at Mike’s Hard Lemonade! And in case you care, Martin Luther’s wife was a skilled brewer which may be the real reason he married her!
Now let me zoom out. Over the years, I think some of the abuses of alcohol became more pronounced and a prohibition movement started to speak out against some of the evil effects of alcohol. And rightly so! But what does the Bible really say about drinking and drunkenness?
Here are a few guiding principles.
#1 Drunkenness is a sin
Scripture is black and white on the issue of drunkenness. It is wrong in and of itself. And it leads to a litany of other sins. Let me say it like it is: nothing good comes from drunkenness. Nothing!
A few weeks ago, Parker and I were out walking our dog, Mickey, late at night. As we turned the corner, I noticed a guy peeing on the sidewalk who was obviously drunk. I found it rather ironic that our dog was also peeing on the sidewalk! I was tempted to turn around and avoid the situation because of Parker. But I thought it’d be a good lesson: I told Parker that when you get drunk you do things and say things that are stupid!
The Bible is explicit in Ephesians 5:18:
Do not be drunk with wine.
#2 Drinking is not a sin
Don’t get me wrong. I think drinking, in and of itself, can be sinful if it’s done for the wrong reasons. Some of those reasons are drinking to forget, drinking to drown your sorrows, drinking to fit in, and drinking to escape emotionally. Alcohol is the wrong way to deal with all of the above!
But that doesn’t change the fact that Scripture does not prohibit drinking. In fact, Jesus turned water into wine. And Paul could have forbidden drinking altogether when he was establishing qualification for elders. But, instead, he forbade drunkenness in Titus 1:7.
I think wine is a lot like sex. It is a gift from God. But like all of His gifts, it can be used, misused, or abused. And nothing is more dangerous than the abuse of sex and alcohol. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they are gifts from God. We tend to overlook verses like Psalm 104:14-15.